Has anyone seen the new Nutcracker production?
I attended last weekend, and I was generally impressed with the production. Stephen Mills has a great sense of the theatrical possibilities latent in the holiday favorite. The party scene is adorable and engaging, and the action is very clearly presented. Clara, Fritz, and the rest of the children were appropriately mannered and polished. Drosselmeyer was played as a young-ish playboy who has his eyes on the maid. In a Freudian twist, the authority figures all reappeared in Clara's dream: Dross and the Maid come back as Snow King and Queen, and Frau and Herr Silberhaus return as Sugarplum and Cavalier.
The party scene segued nicely into the battle, but the action slowed there. Sweet baby mice elicited "awwws" from the audience, but the older rats lacked menace. At times, the music seemed to overpower the business on stage. The swift, bright snowflakes were a welcome development, and in fact, the highlight of the whole production. Mr. Mills is a lauded contemporary choreographer, but I suspect there may be an incredibly gifted classicist lurking within. His corps sections were some of the best I've ever seen. :secret:
Sugarplum's spare kingdom is a United Nations of sorts, with representatives from Spain, Arabia, China, Russia, and France, plus a celebrity (I saw a reality tv star) Mother Ginger of uncertain nationality and a local flower brigade. Nearly all of the divertissements have a small corps behind them, providing more opportunities for student performers. Only the Arabians are on their own, writhing along through their private, sultry adagio. The sinuous couple finished to hoots and hollers from the otherwise tame audience. Spanish, Chinese, and Russian were standard fare, though the latter two suffered from a few shaky landings. All of the pieces moved along swiftly, culminating in the Waltz of the Flowers. The six member red rose corps filled the stage surprisingly well, punctuated by a crystalline lead, who shimmered briskly through very difficult combinations. The joyous waltz set the stage for the Sugarplum pas de duex. Although somewhat interesting, the duet and the female variation was awkward to watch, and no doubt awkward to dance. I've seen the dancers many times, so I could sense the struggle behind the plastered smiles. At times, the choreography seemed almost different just for the sake of being different, and out of place in this classical production. However, both the Sugarplum and her Cavalier danced admirably throughout.
I look forward to seeing Ballet Austin's Nutcracker again and again. They seem to tweak it a bit each year, leaving it fresh for repeat audience members.
BA's 2004 Nutcrackercomments?
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